HOTEL - HOSTEL - GUEST HOUSE – BED&BREAKFAST (B&B).
WHAT ARE THEY? WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
We've noticed that lots of people, especially in Brazil, are not aware of the differences among Hotels, Hostels, Guest Houses and Bed&Breakfasts. Not knowing the differences can often be the source of frustration, once you realize that what you actually booked and what you imagined you were booking are two different things.
People from other countries, notably those in Europe, are usually familiar with different kinds of accommodation and know exactly what to expect when booking a room in a Hostel, a Guest House or a B&B.
We thought it would be helpful to clarify the differences and so we offer our own views on each kind of accommodation, so that travellers will be able to make informed decisions, as well as be aware of how to behave in their accommodation of choice and avoid disappointment.
Since regular hotels have been the most popular kind of accommodation for a while, we believe it won't be necessary to describe them in detail. We'll therefore proceed to the ones that generate the largest number of questions from potential guests.
HOSTELS were created as an affordable alternative for local or international travelers who would rather stay in a no-frills type accommodation, therefore paying less than they would for a traditional hotel room.
A HOSTEL is a commercial establishment with a staff (sometimes with just a few people); and it will accommodate its guests as though it were a "mini hotel". Some hostels serve breakfast; others don't. Often times there's a "do-it-yourself" policy in place: it's up to the guest to make their bed, get settled, iron their own clothes, make their own tea, help themselves with food, make friends, have fun; in other words, feel at home.
A few advantages that come from staying in a Hostel are that a guest will pay significantly less than they would in a traditional hotel; great location (hostels are usually built in strategic areas for tourists, in sought-after neighborhoods with easy access to public transportation and/or touristic spots); adequate premises and comfort level; good service; tidiness and, most importantly, it's a place that facilitates social interaction among guests.
Yes! People who stay in a HOSTEL look for all of the above and they also want to meet other people, build relationships, share their experiences and compare notes about their travels. In other words, they want to have a good time while being a tourist.
Obviously, as is also the case with traditional hotels, visitors will sometimes come across HOSTELS that surpass their wildest expectations, as well as HOSTELS that leave a lot to be desired. That is why it is crucial that you know how to choose a Hostel, a topic we'll come back to later.
People who choose to stay in a Hostel are usually less demanding. They know exactly what they want and what they'll find. They're not so much the 'complaining' kind, but more like the kind of people that can adapt to a new environment and enjoy it. They don't expect to pay less than what they'd pay in a hotel and at the same time enjoy a surprisingly luxurious accommodation with all kinds of conveniences at their fingertips. No! They're fully aware that they'll be accommodated in a leaner set-up, which will nonetheless offer them everything they need to enjoy the stay.
Nowadays it is even possible to find Hostels that surpass many hotels regarding the quality of the services offered; however, they're not cheap. These are the so-called Boutique Hostels (which can be more easily found outside of Brazil).
In Brazil, unfortunately, most Hostels still provide poor services when compared to Hostels abroad, notably those in Europe. Things are looking up in that respect, though: Hostels are growing in popularity in Brazil and the increasing competition is forcing players in this market to try and raise the bar when it comes to service. Customer feedback left in rating websites also tends to eliminate poor service providers.
So if you're thinking about booking your stay at a HOSTEL, try to find one that suits your interests and join the fun. Try to adapt to the environment and the benefits you get for the small price you're paying (much lower than a regular Hotel), without getting fixated on little inconveniences. Don't sweat the small stuff; remember that, in a place like this, everyone's looking for friendship and a feeling of harmony.
Young solo travelers, regular groups and even couples traveling together are usually the ones looking for the compromise between adventure and cost found in a Hostel. These people tend to enjoy and explore the city, as well as benefit from the actual Hostel premises for their own leisure and entertainment.
If you're looking for fun, try to find a Hostel with its own Bar, in a neighborhood with a busy nightlife. If what you're looking for is peace and quiet, choose a Hostel in a tranquil neighborhood, or consider staying at a GUESTHOUSE or BED&BREAKFAST (B&B).
Hostels offer different kinds of rooms. Some examples are "Mixed Bedrooms" (rooms with several bunk beds that will host many different people); "Female-only Bedooms"; "Group Bedooms" (for groups of 4, 6, 8 or more people).
A "Double Bed Private ensuite" is a private bedroom with a queen or king-size bed and private bathroom. A "Twin Bed Private ensuite" is a private bedroom with two twin beds and private bathroom. Every time you read "shared bathroom", that means you'll share it with other guests at the hostel. When you read "Ensuite", that means it's a private bathroom.
That's about all we think is important that you knew about Hostels.
GUESTHOUSES e BED&BREAKFASTS (B&B ou BnB)
We've grouped GuestHouses and Bed&Breakfasts together because they're very similar in nature. The basic difference here is that not all GuestHouses will offer breakfast to guests; Bed&Breakfasts, on the other hand, will obviously always offer breakfast.
Both have the same basic characteristics of a HOSTEL, but they're established in a RESIDENTIAL environment; in other words, a regular person will decide to make vacant rooms in their residence available for local or foreign guests and act as their host.
The role of the host is to welcome guests and, as much as possible, guide and accompany them, as well as help them explore the city, providing them with all available information on cultural events and making sure they have a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
Bed&Breakfasts and GuestHouses are intimate set-ups. The idea behind them is to make guests feel at home. A good host will arrange their home in a way that makes guests feel free to move around in the premises; will lend them a copy of the house keys so that guests will be totally free to come and go as they please; and will offer a phone number that can be used in case of emergency.
When you stay in a GuestHouse or Bed&Breakfast, you'll have, in theory, similar benefits to what you would find in a Hostel; however, you'll enjoy more comfort, sophistication and better service. If you know how to choose, that is.
In general, if the guest knows how to pick a GuestHouse or Bed&Breakfast, they will be very well accommodated and enjoy great comfort, safety, a nice location, as well as personalized service. In addition, they will stay in a quieter place with fewer people, due to the smaller size of of a typical GH or B&B.
People looking for a GuestHouse or Bed&Breakfast are similar to those looking for Hostels; however, they'd rather pay for a little extra comfort, freedom, peace and quiet, a more personalized service, homemade breakfast and the opportunity to socialize with the host and other guests. Generally speaking, they're more focused on exploring the area as tourists, rather than staying in.
Guest Houses and Bed&Breakfasts tend to be more expensive than Hostels, since Hostels have more beds and are therefore able to charge a lower per-bed rate. At GHs and B&Bs, because they offer a more personalized service and fewer beds, rates are a little higher and obviously come with better service and more comfort.
Someone who thinks that the experience of being a guest at a stranger's house will be awkward is completely mistaken. A good host will know how to handle the situation perfectly and will create an environment that brings guests together and makes them feel completely at home.
Because they are staying in the host's residence, it is appropriate that guests behave adequately, follow the house rules and, in particular, respect other guests' right to a peaceful stay.
HOW TO FIND A GOOD HOSTEL, GUEST HOUSE OR BED&BREAKFAST AND AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT?
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
1. OVERALL RATING
Attention! Hostels, B&Bs and GHs are qualified by the guests themselves - the people who actually stayed in the accommodation for a period of time are later invited to rate the service, which they usually do.
The aggregate ratings from previous guests generate a score which will then be displayed in promotional materials and booking websites.
Therefore, when you search for a Hostel, B&B or GH in a booking website, remember to sort the search results by rating so that you'll see the best-rated businesses in the top positions. As a rule of thumb, the first ten results are the places you can trust the most. Be careful, though, to not always stick to this rule*.
*(OBS: There will always be recently inaugurated Hostels, B&Bs or GHs that haven't been rated yet; that, of course, doesn't mean they're not trustworthy. It's often worth giving them a chance since new businesses usually want to outperform existing ones. And we can all agree that there's nothing like staying in brand new accommodation.)
It's essential to carefully read comments made by people who stayed in the top Hotels, B&Bs and GHs. By doing this, you'll be able to zero in on the accommodation that best meets your needs based on the pros and cons listed by previous guests. (A note: there will always be those who go overboard when complaining, precisely because they're not aware of the particularities of each type of accommodation.)
By looking at the ratings and reading guests' feedback you'll be able to get a good feel for what Hostels, B&Bs and GHs are really like. Keep in mind that appearances (pictures published on websites) can be misleading. That's why it is essential to read through guest feedback: those who feel like they have been fooled usually make it a point to put it on record.
Rating the place where you had your stay is, therefore, no small matter. The more people rate their stay, the harder it'll be for future guests to choose the wrong type of accommodation. Don't let yourself be swayed by souvenirs, gifts or coercion. Rate honestly and give a high score to places that deserve it.
Staying in a well located Hostel, B&B or GH will give you peace and tranquility, since you'll have easy access to major tourist spots and places where locals get together to socialize.
Try choosing a location near a subway station, with plenty of public transportation, safe and quiet, and close to your favorite sightseeing spots. Staying far from your main points of interest defeats the purpose of saving money in accommodation: you'll waste time and face the constraints of long commutes.
How can you know where to stay when you've never been to that city? Easy. When you head over to booking sites to search for Hostels, B&Bs or GHs, you'll see they have a visualization feature that will make it possible for you to check out the location of available accommodation in a map. In general, if what you'd like to do is explore the tourist spots, you should choose a neighborhood with a high concentration of hotels and other types of accommodation.
Alternatively, you can try to find a place to stay that strikes a good balance of location, comfort and proximity to points of interest.
In case your intention is to stay at a quieter neighborhood, far away from the hustle and bustle in the city, you should look for accommodation in picturesque locations, with amazing scenery, and fully enjoy the accommodation itself. The same goes if your preference is for themed hotels and such. If you're looking to practice a sport, there are hotels in very specific locations for such purposes. In other words, the possibilities are endless.
3. PICTURES OF THE HOSTEL, B&B OR GH
Do not fully trust the pictures you see in booking sites. Many Hostels, B&Bs and GHs make a substantial investment in one bedroom in order to prep it for promotional pictures, and those are the only pictures of the accommodation that you'll see on the website, alongside images of nice scenery and tourist spots.
Beware. If the Hostel, B&B or GH is trustworthy, it will be very generous with photos and images, which will give guests a realistic idea of what they can actually expect to experience once they get there. Pictures of bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchen, living room and general premises are the minimum a guest should be able to see before making a reservation.
4. AMENITIES / CONVENIENCES
Other than photos, a good way to assess a Hostel, B&B or GH would be by checking the list of amenities: breakfast, wifi, computers, hair dryer, 'round-the-clock reception desk, to-and-from airport transfers, swimming pool, terrace, hot tubs, maps, lockers, tours, etc.
Do not base your decision on price alone! That's a surefire way to get disappointed, save for rare exceptions. In general, those who cannot offer quality and comfort will offer a low price instead. There are, of course, exceptions, since many good Hostels, B&Bs or GHs will, on occasion, offer discounted prices - especially in the low season. As we mentioned before, the best guideline to stick to is "CHEAP DOESN'T PAY OFF". You get what you pay for. Choosing your accommodation based on price alone can lead to potentially unpleasant situations. Remember, low priced accommodation in a highly desirable place should set off a red-flag. The operational cost of Hostel, B&B or GH, depending on its location, can be high. So, beware.
6. COMPARE RATINGS FROM DIFFERENT BOOKING WEBSITES
Compare ratings from one booking website against those from other sites, since there are Hostels, B&Bs or GHs that will give guests souvenirs and gifts upon checkout as an attempt to make them forgive the "cons" and post feedback based just on "pros". Yes, that actually happens. So the smart thing to do is - always do a cross-comparison of ratings, taking in consideration the main booking sites as well as other trusted sites such as www.tripadvisor.com, where visitors rate and leave feedback of their own free will.
The opinions exposed here are the result of countless trips to Europe, United States, Argentina, Russia and Brazil. The type of accommodation chosen was a Hostel, a B&B or a GH in every occasion. Other people's opinions may differ somewhat but our intention wasn't to start up a debate; rather, we wanted to present guidelines, albeit sometimes superficial, that will help guests learn what to expect when looking for accommodation.
For this reason, we hope to have created a useful resource that answers possible questions from travelers that might have been, up to now, unaware of the differences and particularities of each kind of accommodation.